By Ryan Lewis
Last month, the southern end of the access stairs at West Side County Park were closed due to increased erosion.
Allegan County administrator Rob Sarro told county commissioners Oct. 25 that a storm had caused “major erosion” at the Lake Michigan-fronting Ganges Township park and removed approximately 10 feet of dunes beneath the stairs.
County parks coordinator Brandy Gildea said that made the stairs somewhat dangerous to use, so they were removed and stored.
“We plan to reinstall them in April (2019),” she said. “Users are still able to access the structure and use the viewing platforms. The north stairs are still open for people to access the beach.”
This marks a continuation of woes for beach access there. After the massive wooden structure was added in 2016, lake levels steadily rose, erased the beach and threatened the handicap-accessible ramps.
After two tries last winter to shore up the foundation, the structure was closed in February. The county further shored up the structure in late spring, removing its lower sections and redesigning it to have a viewing area higher on the dune, all paid for using insurance funds.
Some of the removed wood was used to create stairs that connected to the beach; this is what was recently removed due to the continued erosion.
The $400,000 West Side Park project started in 2015 and was built with help from a $300,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. It included a new gazebo and south pavilion. The barrier-free structure was built in 2016.
The park sits on 11 acres and has 630 feet of shoreline on Lake Michigan. Existing facilities also include a ball diamond, picnic tables, two covered pavilions, two modern restroom buildings, and a fenced playground area.